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4 Tips for Balancing Phone and Family {from a mom who loves her iPhone and her children}

Dallas Moms blog iphone balance Are you too addicted to your phone? Somedays, I think I may be. But I’m not losing sleep over it.  

You see, about a week ago my newsfeed was cluttered with dozens of shares of an article titled, “Dear Mom on the iPhone.”  I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and summarize the piece as a reminder to spend less time posting and more time parenting.

It’s a solid message. A good one even. But, to many the piece came off as self-righteous.  Just another shovel-full of mommy guilt.

Matrons of the blogosphere quickly united in posting assurances that we really aren’t addicts.  No, we are using the technology to schedule appointments with specialists or to keep up with other responsibilities–like bill paying. Free yourself of the guilt because you need the smartphone. You are entitled to the smartphone.  You may actually be helping your children with the smartphone.  They consoled.

So who’s right? Could most of us do better at minimizing the time we spend staring at our screens?  I’d vote yes.  Am I deleting apps and turning off my wi-fi?  Not so much.

I’m your run-of-the-mill SAHM (an acronym I loathe, by the way.) I have four children, the majority of whom are young enough to be at home with me everyday.  All day.  All week.  And, somedays (honestly) it’s a little rough.  Be it a stomach bug or just a contagious case of the grumpies, there are days that time seems to. stand. still.  On these days I derive (admittedly, too much) pleasure from my escape into the Pinterest vortex.  And, thanks to my iPhone and a cellular company I don’t love enough to mention, that can happen from anywhere I please.

Yet, I also love my children (and my husband) like crazy.  I don’t want to turn into that mom.  The one who never peers over her custom case to see the outside world.  I know that my family deserves much more of me than the 86 reality stars who light up my Facebook each day.  I won’t allow my children to drown while I’m Instagramming cute pictures of them in their swimsuits.

A counselor friend confessed she’s had children ask, “Why are mommy’s emails more important than me?”  I never want to hear that either.

how to balance iPhone family momBut, is this a new problem? I think not.

Truth is every generation of stay-at-home’s has had some way to escape from the daily parenting grind.  Your mother may have vented on a telephone tethered to a central location or just watched Days of Our Lives.  And Grandma or Great Grandma?  Escape probably isn’t the right sentiment for why they couldn’t always give their children 100% of their undivided attention.  Most of these mommas suffered through early parenting before the advent of dishwashers, drive-thrus and Swiffers. My guess is they missed a few little girl twirls or big boy stunts while they were hand-kneading dough or hanging laundry out to dry.

Yet, here in 2013, my heart is to make sure my children know that I’d pick them over a 4 inch screen without hesitation.  So how do we make sure they are loved well {without surrendering our beloved phones}?

Here are my suggestions:

1.  Schedule Some Freedom. Designate some time as “phone free” in your home.  Perhaps it’s the two hours around dinner… or before bed… or whatever works for your family when you know you should be giving your children attention and, yet, are tempted by a text conversation.  Then, also give yourself some “play” time. I like to be on as soon as I wake up. So, I read emails, scroll Facebook, and catch-up a bit while I make breakfast and get the day started for my gaggle.  But, by 9am I try to put the phone away for at least a few hours as we play or get things done around the house. Find a rhythm that works for you.http://www.flickr.com/photos/33026100@N02/4935724970/sizes/l/

2.  Change Your Alerts. You will be ok waiting a few hours to find out that your second cousin’s wife liked the pic of your little man’s block tower.  That girl you used to work with who is truly “desperate” to find a manicurist will live (and use google) without your recommendation.  Really, it’s fun to be connected but it can turn annoying (and I’d argue unhealthy) when time with your family is constantly interrupted by beeps, dings, or buzzes.

3.  Find Some (real) Friends.  Social media is seductive to SAHM’s because of how isolated we can become.  Those months of being home alone with a new baby can quickly turn into years of loneliness unless you are intentional about finding friends.  I know its daunting to commit to playgroups or join organizations like MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), but you need to do it!  It’s wonderful to have the support of your Facebook posse when you need tips for potty-training. But, when your husband’s out of town and you have to take your toddler to the ER, it’s essential to have a real person, close by, that you can call on for help.  And, I’ve found the busier I am with real friends, the more healthy my relationship with my phone naturally becomes.

4.  Ask for Feedback.  The truth hurts. But if you are concerned that you are spending more time talking to Siri than your kiddos: Just ask them!  If they aren’t old enough to talk, look for cues like abnormal fussiness or batting the phone away to get your attention. (Guilty.)  Alternatively, you can ask your husband (or someone close) for their honest opinion.  Be prepared to make adjustments based on their feedback.  Even if they say yes, don’t wallow in guilt.  It’s not a total mom fail.  We all need to set a new course sometimes.  Do a phone detox for a day or two to show your kids who wins and then give yourself a fresh start.

By the end of this year the number of mobile devices will outnumber the number of people living on earth.  Our phones, tablets, and whatever gadget is next aren’t going away anytime soon.  And that’s okay. Let’s be honest: Technology is fun and helpful for many “mom” responsibilities (taking photos for example).  My hope is that we can continue to be conscious of its proper role and do our best to keep it from creeping into the places and times when our children need us undistracted.

What do you think?  How do you try to keep your smartphone usage in check?  

 

 

 

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4 Responses to 4 Tips for Balancing Phone and Family {from a mom who loves her iPhone and her children}

  1. Jenny B March 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    You know what I would like to see from other moms in support of this balancing act? Not expecting me to answer every single Facebook group posting within 5 minutes of posting. Not getting offended if I didn’t see your Tweet for an hour. Not distributing information in an email that won’t be relevant in 5 minutes. I’ve missed some really great opportunities because I was away from my phone with the kids, but I don’t regret it. All it does is make me annoyed with the person who needed something RIGHT NOW…

  2. Megan March 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    I LOVE this blog, and agree with it 100%! Facebook was a life saver to me when I was home by my newborn and totally lonely here because we just moved to Dallas. It helped with the isolation. Now I need it less because we’ve made friends. But sometimes I just need an escape and to see what’s going on with everyone!

  3. Lauren March 25, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    Such a great post!! I can totally relate to how when I have a week full of playdates and seeing friends, I’m much less inclined to be glued to my phone. But those weeks when I don’t have enough outings-it’s like a crazy addiction to check Instagram and Facebook to see what I’m missing out on 🙂

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